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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

(President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, political leader)

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Biography Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (born 28 October 1956) is the sixth and current President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the main political leader of the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran, a coalition of conservative political groups in the country. An engineer and teacher from a poor background, Ahmadinejad joined the Office for Strengthening Unity after the Islamic Revolution. Appointed a provincial governor, he was removed after the election of President Mohammad Khatami and returned to teaching. Tehran's council elected him mayor in 2003. He took a religious hard line, reversing reforms of previous moderate mayors. His 2005 presidential campaign, supported by the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran, garnered 62% of the runoff election votes, and he became President on 3 August 2005.

Ahmadinejad is a controversial figure both within Iran and internationally. He has been criticized domestically for his economic lapses and disregard for human rights. He launched a gas rationing plan in 2007 to reduce the country's fuel consumption, and cut the interest rates that private and public banking facilities could charge. He supports Iran's nuclear energy program. His election to a second term in 2009 was widely disputed and caused widespread protests domestically and drew significant international criticism. In 2011 the presence of a so-called "deviant current" among his aides and supporters led to the arrest of several of them.

Ahmadinejad was born near Garmsar in the village of Aradan, in Semnan province. His father, Ahmad, was an ironworker, grocer, barber, blacksmith and religious Shi'a who taught the Qur'an. His mother, Khanom, was a Seyyede, an honorific title given to those believed to be direct bloodline descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Ahmadinejad's father changed his name from "Sabourjian" or "Sabaghian" when Ahmadinejad was four years old to avoid discrimination when the family moved to Tehran, as the rural name indicated a lowly social standing. Sabor is Persian for thread painter, a once common occupation within the Semnan carpet industry. Ahmadinejad was chosen as it means from the race of Ahmad, one of the names given to Muhammad.

In 1976, Ahmadinejad took Iran's national university entrance contests. According to his autobiography, he was ranked 132nd out of 400,000 participants that year, and soon enrolled in the Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST) as an undergraduate student of civil engineering. He earned his PhD (1997) in transportation engineering and planning from Iran University of Science and Technology, located at Tehran, when he was the Mayor of Ardabil Province, located at the north-west of the country.

Supporters of Ahmadinejad consider him a "simple man" that leads a "modest" life. As president, he wanted to continue living in the same house in Tehran his family had been living in, until his security advisers insisted that he move. Ahmadinejad had the antique Persian carpets in the Presidential palace sent to a carpet museum, and opted instead to use inexpensive carpets. He is said to have refused the V.I.P. seat on the Presidential plane, and that he eventually replaced it with a cargo plane instead. Also upon gaining Iran's presidency, Ahmadinejad held his first cabinet meeting in the Imam Reza shrine at Mashhad, an act perceived as "pious".

Some details of Ahmadinejad's life during the 1980s are not publicly known, but it is known that he held a number of administrative posts in the province of West Azerbaijan, Iran.

Many reports say that after Saddam Hussein invaded Iran, Ahmadinejad joined the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution and served in their intelligence and security apparatus, but his advisor Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi says "He has never been a member or an official member of the Revolutionary Guards", having been a Basiji-like volunteer instead.

Ahmadinejad was accepted to a Master of Science program at his alma mater in 1986. He joined the faculty there as a lecturer in 1989, and in 1997 received his doctorate in civil engineering and traffic transportation planning.

Shortly after being elected president, some western media outlets published claims that Ahmadinejad was among the students who stormed the US embassy in Tehran, sparking the Iran hostage crisis. This claim has been denied by the Iranian government, the Iranian opposition as well as a CIA investigation on the matter.

After the Islamic Revolution, Ahmadinejad became a member of the Office for Strengthening Unity, an organization developed to prevent students from sympathizing or allying with the budding Mojahedin-e Khalq.

He first took political office as unelected governor to both Maku and Khoy in West Azarbaijan Province during the 1980s. He eventually became an advisor to the governor general of Kurdistan Province for two years. During his doctoral studies at Tehran, he was appointed governor general of Ardabil Province from 1993 until Mohammad Khatami removed him in 1997 when he returned to teaching.

In 2003, a 12 percent turnout elected conservative candidates from the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran to the City Council of Tehran. The Council appointed Ahmadinejad mayor.

Ahmadinejad was not widely known when he entered the presidential election campaign as he had never run for office before, (he had only been mayor of Tehran for two years and had been appointed not elected), although he had already made his mark in Tehran for rolling back earlier reforms. He was/is a member of the Central Council of the Islamic Society of Engineers, but his key political support is inside the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran (Abadgaran or Developers). He was also helped by support from supreme leader Ali Khamanei, who some described Ahmadinejad as a "protege" of.

Ahmadinejad generally sent mixed signals about his plans for his presidency, perhaps to attract both religious conservatives and the lower economic classes. His campaign slogan was: "It's possible and we can do it".

In the campaign, he took a populist approach. He emphasized his own modest life, and compared himself with Mohammad Ali Rajai, Iran's second president. Ahmadinejad said he planned to create an "exemplary government for the people of the world" in Iran. He was a "principlist", acting politically based on Islamic and revolutionary principles. One of his goals was "putting the petroleum income on people's tables", meaning Iran's oil profits would be distributed among the poor.

Ahmadinejad was the only presidential candidate who spoke out against future relations with the United States. He told Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting the United Nations was "one-sided, stacked against the world of Islam." He opposed the veto power of the UN Security Council's five permanent members: "It is not just for a few states to sit and veto global approvals. Should such a privilege continue to exist, the Muslim world with a population of nearly 1.5 billion should be extended the same privilege." He defended Iran's nuclear program and accused "a few arrogant powers" of trying to limit Iran's industrial and technological development in this and other fields.

In Ahmadinejad's first four years as president, Iran's real GDP reflected growth of the economy. Inflation and unemployment have also decreased under Ahmadinejad due to better economic management and ending the unsustainable spending and borrowing patterns of previous administrations . Ahmadinejad has increased spending by 25 percent and has supported subsidies for food and gasoline. He also initially refused a gradual increase of petrol prices, saying that after making necessary preparations, such as a development of public transportation system, the government will free up petrol prices after five years. Interest rates were cut by presidential decree to below the inflation rate. One unintended effect of this stimulation of the economy has been the bidding up of some urban real estate prices by two or three times their pre-Ahmadinejad value by Iranians seeking to invest surplus cash and finding few other safe opportunities. The resulting increase in the cost of housing has hurt poorer, non-property owning Iranians, the putative beneficiaries of Ahmadinejad's populist policies. The Management and Planning Organisation, a state body charged with mapping out long-term economic and budget strategy, was broken up and its experienced managers were fired.

In June 2006, 50 Iranian economists wrote a letter to Ahmadinejad that criticized his price interventions to stabilize prices of goods, cement, government services, and his decree issued by the High Labor Council and the Ministry of Labor that proposed an increase of workers' salaries by 40 percent. Ahmadinejad publicly responded harshly to the letter and denounced the accusations. Ahmadinejad has called for "middle-of-the-road" compromises with respect to Western-oriented capitalism and socialism. Current political conflicts with the United States have caused the central bank to fear increased capital flight due to global isolation. These factors have prevented an improvement of infrastructure and capital influx, despite high economic potential.

Among those that did not vote for him in the first election, only 3.5 percent said they would consider voting for him in the next election. Mohammad Khoshchehreh, a member of Iranian parliament that campaigned for Ahmadinejad, said that his government "has been strong on populist slogans, but weak on achievement." President Ahmadinejad has changed almost all of his economic ministers, including oil, industry and economy, since coming to power in 2005. In an interview with Fars News Agency on April 2008, Davoud Danesh Jaafari who acted as minister of economy in President Ahmadinejad's cabinet, harshly criticized Ahmadinejad's economic policy: "During my time, there was no positive attitude towards previous experiences or experienced people and there was no plan for the future. Peripheral issues which were not of dire importance to the nation were given priority.

Most of the scientific economic concepts like the effect of liquidity on inflation were put in question." In response to these criticisms, Ahmadinejad accused his minister of not being "a man of justice" and declared that the solution to Iran's economic problem is "the culture of martyrdom". In May 2008, the Petroleum minister of Iran admitted that the government illegally invested 2 billion dollars to import petrol in 2007. At Iranian parliament, he also mentioned that he simply followed the president's order.
While his government had 275 thousand billion toman oil income, the highest in Iranian history, Ahmadinejad's government had the highest budget deficit since the Iranian revolution.

During his presidency, Ahmadinejad launched a gas rationing plan to reduce the country's fuel consumption. He also instituted cuts in the interest rates that private and public banking facilities could charge. He issued a directive that the Management and Planning Organization be affiliated to the government. In May 2011 Ahmadinejad announced that he would temporarily run the Oil Ministry.

In October 2006, Ahmadinejad began calling for the scrapping of Iran's existing birth control policies, which discouraged Iranian couples from having more than two children. He told MPs that Iran could cope with 50 million more people than the current 70 million. In November 2010 he urged Iranians to marry and reproduce earlier, "We should take the age of marriage for boys to 20 and for girls to about 16 and 17." His remarks have drawn criticism and been called ill-judged at a time when Iran was struggling with surging inflation and rising unemployment, estimated at around 11 percent. Ahmadinejad's call was reminiscent of a call for Iranians to have more children made by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979. The policy increased Iran's population by 16 million in seven years but was eventually reversed in response to the resultant economic strain.

In 2008, the government sent the "Family Protection Bill" to the Iranian parliament. Women's rights activists criticized the bill for removing protections from women, such as the requirement that a husband obtain his wife's consent before bringing another wife into the family. Women's rights in Iran are far behind that of more advanced countries.
Responses to dissent have varied. Human Rights Watch writes that "the Ahmadinejad government, in a pronounced shift from the policy under former president Mohammed Khatami, has shown no tolerance for peaceful protests and gatherings." In December 2006, Ahmadinejad advised officials not to disturb students who engaged in a protest during a speech of his at the Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran, although speakers at other protests have included among their complaints that there had been a crackdown on dissent at universities since Ahmadinejad was elected.

In April 2007, the Tehran police, which is under Khamenei's supervision, began a crackdown on women with "improper hijab." This led to criticism from associates of Ahmadinejad.

During Ahmadinejad's tenure as President of Iran the foreign policy of the country took a different approach from the previous administration. Relations with the West generally soured while relations with other parts of the world, including Africa and Latin America, were on the ascendance. In light of the calls for sanctions on Iran for its nuclear weapons programme, Ahmadinejad and his foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, traveled extensively throughout the two regions, as well as hosted other leaders. Relations with the ALBA states, and Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, in particular, were most strengthened. Relations with America during the Bush administration and Israel were weakened.

Ahmadinejad is an outspoken critic of the United States, Israel, and United Kingdom.
He was married to Fatemeh Sadat Farahi on 12 June 1981 in Tehran. Farahi was a classmate of Ahmadinejad when he studied at the Iran University of Science and Technology. They have three children, including one daughter, Asiyeh, and two sons, Mehdi and Alireza. His older son, Mehdi, married the daughter of Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei in 2007, and his younger son, Alireza, is married to the niece of former military general, Mahmoud Kaveh. All of his children studied at the Amirkabir University of Technology (Tehran Polytechnic).

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